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Avionics Training: Systems, Installation and Troubleshooting bo esol seo) Deals AvionicsTraining: Systems, Installation and Troubleshooting Second Edition Len Buckwalter Preface Avionics is changing rapidly, thanks 10 the com- puter revolution, satellites, digital clectroniey and flat panel displays, ta name a few. These changes are also affecting the direction of avionics training. Technicians « half-century ago were “radio me- chanics.” removing broken black boxes fram airplanes, ‘aking them to the shop and testing the circuit, They did “all-purpose” maintenance, equally at home on the fight line or work bench, But as avionics grew more ‘complicated, the job was split in two. One person became the “installer” —-troubleshooting on the ramp, ‘or mounting and wiring equipment in airplanes. The ‘ther person, trained in repairing cireuits inside the box, became the “bench technician,” skilled in trouble~ shooting down to the smallest component, For decades radio shops separated technical skills this way to ser- ‘vice private aircraft in General Aviation. In the aitfines, the division of labor went further. Flightline maintenance was handled by radio mechan- ics scattered at major airports along their routes, sup- ported by A&P mechunies. After a defective radio was pulled, it was sent back (0 the aisline maintenance de- [pot for repair by bench tec lines, it was usual to have Ciafists im each type of instrument or radi ‘automatic direction finder, communications, ete. By the 1990's, avionics took off ina new dirce- tion. Manufacturers beyan building radios with disap- peuring parts! Instead of resistors, capacitors and tubes, they populated them with integrated circuits encased in tough epoxy coatings that were difficult to remove. Other ‘ho longer hid wires, but were “aur face mounted” directly to the board. Other areas grew smaller: Radios had different sections 10 ture, amplify or produce some other fire tiom but much of that construction is now replaced by invisible software, which instructs the chips to become just about anything. 10's the same idea usa personal computer and its applications software; it’s a word processor, spread sheet or video game-—-at the press of a few buttons, For the avionics shop, these developments reduce the need for bench technicians to repair down to the component fevel. Maintaining the new avionics ro- quires expensive automatic test stations beyond the reach of movt shops, Today's digital avionics are sent back to the factory or a major depot for repair. Sone faults in this equipment, in fact, will not appear untess tests are repeat over many hours, often in a test cham- ber that runs hot and cold. These tasks: must he done automatically, and not by a technician with a pair of test probes. ‘Oh the other hand, demand for installation tech- nicians working on the ramp or flightline mot only. re- mains strong but will grow. Upgrades for old aircraft ‘continue at a remarkable rate because new-generation ‘equipment makes flying more economical, efficient and safe. Some avionics retumn their investment in as litle as oneor two years, then function another ten to twenty Airline and corporate aircraft must upgrade to fly in the coming air traffic system—to get more direct routes, altitudes with less headwind, fewer delays and better communication services, all of which repay the cost of avionics and keep passengers happy, Beyond the Might deck. A whole new category called “cabin avionics” is spreading. among airlines Once called “in-flight entertainment,” it auds Internet connectivity to every seal, c-muil, global telephone, video games and new firms of entertainment. An ait- liner typically hus two or three radios per function in its instrument pancl--but hundreds of passenger seats with equipment in the cabin that now fits under the heading “avionics.”